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College English Class: Marriage of Memes, Meat, Misleading, Morality, and, Most of All, Meaning//Jennifer Chun

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Marriage:

About one year ago, I was filling out the college admission form for the second time.  As with questions about our desired dorms, it included a form asking to rate our interest in a variety of topics from “not interested” to “very interested”.  There seemed nothing unusual about it.  Science and technology, Italian culture, California ideals…  I seemed pretty neutral to most of these, choosing “may be interested”.  But then “food” came up as a topic.  “Well, I enjoy eating food, so of course I’ll be interested”, I thought to myself.  So I selected “very interested”.  What I did not know at that time was that decision would finalize my marriage contract of my college English class required of me during my first two quarters in college.

I know “marriage” might be a strong term for referring to a relationship not between another human being, but if you think about it, being in college is being in a well-planned and awaited relationship with our studies.  We’ve all been preparing for college since we were at least high schoolers, building up our college resumes with Advanced Placement courses, extracurricular activities, and grades for that one moment of applying to several four year colleges.  We’ve sacrificed hours of leisure for a better future.  We heavily anticipate the months of March and April of our senior high school years to decided where we would be for four years.

And most importantly, your total college cost, tuition, textbook cost, and housing cost for a single quarter /semester or two may cost as much as an average marriage. My college’s tuition for a quarter is in the $20,500’s.  Couples on average are believed to spend between “$19,323 and $32,205” on a wedding(“Cost…”).  My mom keeps reminding me that a single class costs about $100, considering all the costs, so I MUST attend all my classes.  I understand Mom~

I think what bothers me the most about college though is that although we pay the heavy costs of college, American culture doesn’t do good enough of a job to encourage students to really enjoy their education.  A fair number of college students look forward to it mostly in a social aspect.  General education courses are often skirted off as “annoying requirements” for a diploma that may land us a job.  College is seem more as a chore than a blessed opportunity.

I really wanted to get as much as I could from a true college experience as I could, textbook knowledge and all.  I know of others who aren’t as blessed to have the four year experience, one that who never will…  And I didn’t want to let my parents’ savings go to waste.

And… I really wanted to go to the college I had been admitted to the previous year.  I had graduated the year before, and accepted the application when I did in my April, but I became really sick during my last months of high school.  I lost most of my remaining high school days and a month of college due to it.  During that time, I was unable to mentally get myself to check my emails or do anything.  My parents felt that maybe my applied college had given up my application since I failed to respond to their orientation emails.  They thought that I would probably need to take the junior college route to get into a four-year college.  But, I decided to take the slim, improbable chance of requesting for a gap year.  It worked!  I knew then that I had wanted to take on this education marriage.

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Memes:

During my gap year, I had taken community college classes and was forced to stay near home, in fear that my illness would come back (it did).  There was no social life on my college campus.  I couldn’t drive, so meeting with other people to hang out was hard.  I often spent lots of time on my own, wondering what life would be like in a four year college.  During that November, the Facebook group UC Berkeley Memes for Edgy Teens (or UCBMEFT) came out and took my Facebook story by storm.  Everyone was adding each other to this college page and the numerous other inspired college meme pages, even for colleges that they hadn’t applied to.  I was able to see how my fellow classmates related to each other in their college mishaps and grades.  I became really excited about attending a four year college, when I would truly relate to their experiences.

Memes became a big part of my college freshman fall quarter than I expected.  I was able to meet the people of my current Christian club and finally connect with my roommate (after three weeks of pure unease).  And, interestingly enough, my English class was meme-worthy itself.  The class title, not kidding, was “Food Porn”.  For the first few weeks, we had talked about, looked at, and even created our own food porn!  We had recognized the visual importance of food advertising and how it affects us as a nation, even if most of the food appeal is a lie.  Who knew that food could even be a topic for a writing class?!

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Meat:

After we had spent a fair time with food porn, our professor had us read Eating Animals and Consider the Lobster, both which examined the ethical issues behind eating many of our “ethical” meats.  He had us participate in class discussions about the texts and our analysis of the well-written and creative writing styles of Jonathan Safran Foer and David Foster Wallace respectively.  It made me want to become less of a meat eater when we had to watch videos displaying the harsh reality of animal treatment in factory farms.  I can’t look at a turkey ever again with the same ease anymore.

The other meat that we had learned about was the realization that everything that we’ve been taught in high school English classes was wrong!  We realized that our previous essays were reversing the outline of a basic argument.  Reading the professor’s book Slant, we rethought our writing processes with a slant, the mix of a thesis and a so-what.  We needed to open up our essays to more questions and underlying issues rather than narrow ourselves in!

The biggest meat of writing information was the professor’s motto.  “Write essays that you want to read!”.  It made me realize that the greatest meat of an essay was the enjoyment of the writer.  We have been so used to writing forced, structured essays that we had resented even thinking about writing an essay.  That really stuck with me the most throughout the months.

I incorporated all of these meat in an essay I wrote about offals, those animal intestines that you see in Chinese restaurants and the like.  It was my personal instinctive counterargument to the vegan- vegetarian- push that the texts have encouraged.  As much as I’d like to stop eating meat, I can’t due to my family owning many Chinese restaurants with meat.  I argued that offals do have more value than Western society likes to think in terms of “morality”. It’ll be difficult to stop all people from eating meat, but the least we can do is not waste the meat we make from factory farming!  Is it not more immoral to waste animal resources than to kill animals themselves?

In another essay, I was able to incorporate creativity with my love for math in an essay that doesn’t offer any excuse for food waste.  I took all my experiences with the various school dining services and used each restaurant to stress key issues in American food waste, particularly those involved with composting, surplus food, and leftovers.  We purposely avoid placing blame for wasted food on ourselves!  In one of my sources, I read of a woman who developed her own strategy to “forget” the existence of surplus food so when this surplus is past its expiration date she can throw this food away “‘with an easier conscience’”(Evans 53).  Scary thought, isn’t it?  It hit me more closer to home than I’d thought it would.

Here’s a “writing experiment” that I started my essay off with, the universal symbol of a person throwing away food that was created by various words that I thought a food waster would say as an excuse.  It was the most random idea I had thought of at the moment, but it worked out once I became determined to do it.  I am quite proud of this one!

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Misleading:

At the beginning of the Winter quarter, we moved on from factory farming and food corruption to deceit in all industries.  Food companies are messed up in their own ways, true, but so are many other things!  Our professor challenged us to work in groups to create a podcast based on any topic involving corruption.  Initially I wasn’t gung-ho for the idea since I’ve never been the best in group settings.  I also wasn’t too familiar with my group members.  It took some time for us to work everything out, but we succeeded in creating a podcast highlighting the notable female bias in the Silicon Valley.  Our group set-up forced us to get creative in presenting our podcast as one of “many” podcasts by a male student at our school asking informed females about gender-specific issues.  We took phone and Skype interviews with female tech workers to add to our podcast.  I had mislead myself into believing that everything wasn’t going to go well when quite the opposite was true.

We also do a fair share of misleading and lying ourselves, even without knowing it.   Dan Ariely in his book The Honest Truth About Dishonesty discussed various ways in which we as people lie to ourselves.  We use our creativity, personal belongings, and our conscious to lie to ourselves of who we are, for better and for worse.  It was rather amusing listening to classmates who openly admitted the ways that people cheated in their high schools in a college class!

It just so happened that around that time I went into an identity crisis about being in a four year college.  I was insecure as to whether I was capable of being in my intended major, or even being at the college at all.  I felt my interest in my major was fading quickly, but I didn’t know what to change to.  Was it right to put my family’s finances at a big risk when I was so unsure of whether my education mattered?  College only really matters if you finish with a degree, isn’t it?

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Morality:

We were assigned to write our final essay of any given topic relating to our official class theme of “Food, Self, and Culture”.  I felt that I had run out of ideas at that point.  I had wanted to stick with food as much as I could since it was a food class.  Most of my classmates had switched to other subjects of their interests that involved corruption or illegal means such as overuse of drugs in the Silicon tech industry and the competitive e-Sports.  I felt uncertain of thesis statements that I had brought to class for peer review.  I thought these statements over for days, and on a whim I decided to pick reality shows as a topic.

I had deeply thinking about the ending of a video game I had finished, Danganronpa V3.  I won’t spoil the ending in here, trust me!  I love the Danganronpa franchise, don’t get me wrong (the featured image includes the main protagonists of Danganronpa V3, Kaede and Shuichi) and I’d highly recommend it, but the end of the most recent game really made me consider the moral ramifications of teenage violence in similar franchises such as The Hunger Games movies and novels.  Is it right for our society to popularize medias such as these into the mainstream?  I discussed the video game as part of my analysis for the short story Those Who Walk Away from Omelas by the recently deceased Ursula Le Guin that questions whether the mistreatment of a select few people is worth the sacrifice for the happiness for most people.  I emailed my professor to ask whether this idea could work, and he thought that it was an excellent essay idea!  I was excited to hear that a series that has great meaning to me could be used as the basis for a college assignment, especially since the essay would be very specific to Danganronpa V3 and The Hunger Games movies.

The essay proved to be my most ambitious venture ever!  It took me about three hours to find a proper narrative that related to my stance ( that these medias that display child-killing encourage young adults to consider their moralities in decision making towards authority/establishment), but once I found it I hit jackpot and was able to use the story to lead my essay.  I had borrowed about four physical books detailing reports that defined ethics and morality (it’s far more greater than you can imagine!), reviewed a fair share of websites and databases, and relooked over summaries for the medias so I could describe all the occasions of defiance (murder or not) with enough background information for anyone to read the essay!  The outline for my essay, consisting of nothing but bullet points, totaled to five pages.  I thought that my essay would be ten pages at most, but in bringing the essay to completion on my rough draft, I realized that I needed a lot more time than expected…  I once had to work on the essay for four hours straight to get it done within the generous extension.

The essay… turned out to be 17 pages long, double spaces, MLA format, even without the works cited pages…

How…

The closest I’d been able to get a research paper to that length was nine pages.  Heck, the page requirement for the essay itself was at least five pages!

It was an exhausting essay.  Midway I was beginning to regret my idea since there was a lot that needed to be talked about.

I brought up all the crucial plot points that related to the three subcategories of ethics.  I established that each character had their “just” motivations; there is no one “common sense” after all (Wallace 26)!  The Hunger Games movies most notably encouraged young adults to create communities that dedicated themselves to relating words of the movies and the scarring violence to relieve daily stresses and discuss socioeconomic inequality.  We seek to find definitive solutions to movies that deal with realistic issues such as inequality.  Violence has always existed in “popular medias” such as Grimm fairy tales since they effectively keep children away from dangers through the use of fear.  The world will always be filled with violence, so the best solution is to discuss use of it with young adults so they may make their own best judgements!

 

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Meaning (The Most Important):

Looking back at it, the fulfillment of my improbable essay goal was an exhaustion worth taking!  I was able to reflect on the basis of my own decision making best by writing that essay.  The research proved that the world isn’t as straightforward as we’d like it to be.  The “just” in any decision should be seen in the same light as anything “in-just”.  They can switch at a matters notice depending on which ethic subcategories are weighted higher than others in society.  One of the most important things you can do is encourage discussion of ideals and topics that you know that exist, whether you morally believe in them or not.  All of our personal values are based on one another’s.  We should be open for outside opinion enough as we are to our random ideas.

We tend to feel the most at ease with ourselves when we stick with a specific set of values over our lives.  It’s only natural.  We want to feel that what we are doing is right.  Doesn’t your life only have meaning once you fulfill a life-long dream of yours?  No, it doesn’t.  I believe that life has meaning only when you take those improbable challenges and you daily face your “opposition”.  I wouldn’t be able to write an essay, let alone this blog post, so long if I hadn’t taken those few minutes writing an email to my professor about an idea that popped up in my head.  I wouldn’t have been able to challenge my creative limits nor even be attending a four year college had I acted on my “logic” over my intuition.  Writing an essay that you would want to read becomes no different than living your life as if you were to want your life to be like someone else’s.

A required English class such as the one I had for two quarters of my freshman year of college doesn’t serve primarily for me to learn about English.  It serves to push me and other adults into finding our own meaning by pushing us out of our comfort zones and helping us distinguish our intuitions from “logics” that may “mislead” us.  It was about finding the “meat” in my lives and the “morality” of my decisions.  Being in a group setting instilled a shared discomfort that became an unspoken mean of relating with peers, just as “memes” serve to bring college students together.  The “marriage” of college is costly in many regards, but it “means” so much to me.  I can not be any more grateful than I am now!

 

Works Cited:

“Shuichi Saihara and Kaede Akamatsu from Danganronpa V3: Killing Harmony.” https://www.pinterest.co.uk/pin/858991328899557263/

“How much does the average wedding cost?” MSASea. http://www.msa-sea.org/43506-average-cost-of-weddin-venue/

“Average Wedding Cost in the United States Is $25,764.” Cost of Wedding, The Wedding Report.Inc, http://www.costofwedding.com/.

Harlot777. “Food Porn.” Imgur. 3 March 2015. https://imgur.com/gallery/pVczv6F

“Meat Chickens 2.” Safe https://safe.org.nz/issue/factory-farming-meat-chickens

Evans, David. Food Waste: Home Consumption, Material Culture and Everyday Life.

Bloomsbury, 2014.

“District 8 Battle 2.” Wired. https://www.wired.com/2014/11/mockingjay-violence-teens/

“Big Meaning.” Christopher Curtis Sensei. http://curtissensei.com/?p=820

 

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Food for Thought // Caley Falcocchia

“There are these two young fish swimming along, and they happen to meet an older fish swimming the other way, who nods at them and says, “Morning, boys, how’s the water?” And the two young fish swim on for a bit, and then eventually one of them looks over at the other and goes, ‘What the hell is water?’”

-David Foster Wallace, “This is Water”

When I walked into my English Critical Thinking and Writing (CTW) class on the first day, I had no idea what to expect.  My professor, Nick Leither, showed the class David Foster Wallace’s commencement speech “This is Water.”  After discussing the speech, Professor Nick switched gears and flicked the screen over to the next slide.  The screen displayed the course overview, reading “Food Porn: Reading Food, Self, & Culture.”  Both intrigued and confused, I left class on that first day with two questions.  First off, how can an english class be entirely dedicated to food?  Also, what the hell is water?  I had no clue what was to come during the two quarters of this class.  

I should first explain that I did not sign up for this class.  Every freshman at Santa Clara University (SCU) is randomly placed into a mandatory CTW class before even arriving to campus.  I was honestly quite displeased when I learned that I had been assigned a 7:30-9:10 PM CTW class.  Convinced that my brain would not be capable of attending class at this time of the day, my naive-self even talked to my advisor to see if I could switch into a different CTW section at a different time.  As you can probably guess, my advisor told me to suck it up, and viola- my “Food Porn” CTW class at 7:30-9:10 PM was here to stay for two quarters.  Although I was first unhappy by my CTW course placement, the class and its material caused me to reflect on my lifestyle and personal values, which which will continue to stick with me- not only for the remainder of my college experience- but for the rest of my life.  

Continue reading Food for Thought // Caley Falcocchia

Heart, Mind, and Soul

“Whenever you make a decision, whenever you act, you are never just doing, you are always becoming.” –Aristotle  

Throughout my life I have always tended to focus on finding deeper meanings. Whether it is through simple actions like doing chores or more substantial decisions like changing my lifestyle choices, when taking a step back and looking at the greater impact of my actions and how they affect me, I create purpose for myself. I have realized that all my actions contribute to the person I am today. I am constantly becoming.

Particularly through my Critical Thinking and Writing class at Santa Clara University, I was allowed to explore the deeper meaning in not only the topic of our course – titled Food Porn – but also reflect on my own life. Within the class we explored the realm of animal agriculture and its effect on our lives. Yet, even though this was the main theme of our class, we always seemed to focus on deeper rooted issues such as ethics, sustainability, awareness, and truth. The debates and discussions of these deeper concepts helped contribute to the development of my mind, heart, and soul. All the controversies and information I have been exposed to through my CTW class took part in creating the person I have become and am constantly becoming.

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funny-random-facts-16.jpgFrom the start, our first activity done in class was intended to spark self-reflection and a deeper level of thinking. Our professor, Nick Leither, and his companion, Rosa Del Duca, created a sort of questionnaire called the American Happiness Project and Professor Nick presented it to our class on the first day. This paper included four questions about ways we defined happiness, and asked for us to draw a picture representing it. You can take the online version or learn more about the questionnaire here. As you can see, right off the bat I was exposed to an environment that encouraged exploration and critique of my own thoughts and beliefs. This exploration continued as the year went on.

Within the topic of animal agriculture, we were not merely presented with facts and mindlessly accepting them, but rather we dove into the notion of who was to blame for unethical practices, and how our actions of consuming animal products show our negligence because we are informed about the vast amount of injustice the animal agriculture business has on not only to ourselves, but to our world as a whole.

In one of my essay assignments I analyzed the development and changes in my mind and heart in relation to eating meat. When breaking down my choice to not be a vegetarian in light of all the new information provided to me I examined my mind’s rationality, of taking into consideration that it is truly a bad practice, but also observed the values of my heart, and how eating meat is tied to my middle eastern culture and holds a significance beyond nutrition and fulfilling my appetite.

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Within this essay I was able to critique my own belief and decisions, which is exactly what this class is encouraging. Through my self reflection I am able to develop myself into the person I truly want to become. Going beyond the issues within the food industry we also delve into lying and cheating and how that has an impact on our lives. Rather than observing the on-the-surface notion that lying and cheating are inherently bad, we analyzed the why and so what. We debated the controversial topics of if it is ever okay to cheat and what impact cheating and lying have on your character. Rather than seeing our world in black and white, we sought out the inner workings of our world’s gray areas. In my last essay of the course, I looked into lying in relationships and examined our societies boundaries, or rather lack thereof, for determining when lying is right or wrong. Within the surveys I took of my peers, along with my research, I was able to explore these gray areas of human morality. I came to the conclusions here that it is the individuals themselves that are responsible for creating their own rules, yet when doing so they must keep in consideration what effect their rules and boundaries have on their character. If they allow themselves to lie and cheat, what does that say about them? This then led me to question, in all the times I have cheated or lied, how has that made an effect on my character?

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With all the new knowledge I have attained, and reflection I have made on my life decisions I have further developed myself as a whole person. I am now motivated to continue to keep asking those BIG questions and create a more purposeful life for myself. My professor rather than showing me, held my hand and led me along the path of the unique development of my mind, body, and soul. Professor Nick was the one who made me even further question my actions, being, and realities of my world, so now I am here to challenge you to explore the questions of your world and develop your mind, heart, and soul. Who are you truly becoming?

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The Fast and The Delicious?// Andres Jimenez

My mother’s cooking was never to amazing when I was a child, the same dishes week after week began to haunt my evening dinners. So when we had a chance to get fast food it was always the best. “What do you guys want to eat?”, were the best words my parents would say after an exhausting day. McDonald’s, Taco Bell, Burger King all so delicious and fun, but which one shall we choose? It became harder than a judges role in the pursuit of justice to decide what we wanted. Not only thinking about the food, but the new toys and the huge playgrounds. But in the end no matter what we got or ate it was always a let down after the meal. From tired bodies to hurt stomachs there was always something that made us regret why we even wanted it in the first place. What is it that is bringing us back to these fast food restaurants? Continue reading The Fast and The Delicious?// Andres Jimenez

Can’t Keep My Thoughts to Myself // Emma Carpenter

I was uncomfortable from the minute I walked into “Critical Thinking and Writing” at 5:25pm on a Monday–the first day of my college career. I was uncomfortable being in a new state, surrounded by new people who had new interests and perceptions of what was “in” and what wasn’t. I grew even more uncomfortable when my teacher was late and one of my classmates insisted we all get in a circle and chat. That was not me. I was also very intimidated by the idea of critically thinking and thinking for myself. I had become very good at keeping quiet and reading the classroom and then reiterating exactly what I knew the teacher wanted to hear on whatever assessment came up. In fact, if I was directly asked my thoughts on something I would mutter an “I don’t know” and quickly divert my attention. Critical Thinking and Writing? This was not my cup of tea, to say the least.

Continue reading Can’t Keep My Thoughts to Myself // Emma Carpenter

Because I Care// Carina Maysenhalder

 

I love getting asked the question, “Where do you want to go eat?”, regularly followed up with an, “I’m not sure what’s around here, do you know of a place?” I often laugh. Of course I know of a place. Well, technically, nine time out of ten I myself don’t know of a place, but Yelp sure does. After much deliberation and using my cellphone to scroll through a wide variety of food establishments, preferably four stars and up, a decision gets made and the food adventure begins. Continue reading Because I Care// Carina Maysenhalder

My Life // Babacar Diallo

I moved to the United States from Africa in 2008 when I was 12 years old from Senegal, Africa. Since then I have been living in Oakland, Ca and my life has been going pretty well. I had the privilege to learn English which is my third language after Wolof (native language) and French. I also adapted myself to the Californian’s life mostly the Oakland’s life. I remember back in middle school when I first moved to the U.S., my friends from school used to call me African’s boy which separated me from the Oakland people (Oaklanders) and there was also the language. But now people Oakland boy because I represented Oakland all the time with the sport teams such as the Warriors (NBA) and the Raiders (NFL). Even my style is the Oakland’s style and the music I listened. Sometimes I feel like I am from Oakland or more so I was born in Oakland because the city helped me grown to be a man I am today. But I am not from Oakland, I am from Senegal.

Continue reading My Life // Babacar Diallo